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Handicapping The Race: Red Wings Still in Hunt For Playoff Spot Nobody Wants

Detroit has scored five goals over the past four games



Dylan Larkin, Red Wings
The Red Wings must win in Tampa to avoid going winless on a five-game road trip.

At some point soon, the Detroit Red Wings are going to run out of moral victories to give. Amazingly, that time still hasn’t arrived. And Detroit has no one to thank for that fact other than just about every other squad involved in this pathetic race for the final Eastern Conference wild card place.

If you ever pondered what the fable of the tortoise and the hare would look like if only tortoises were entered in the race, well, wonder no more. This chase is exactly that.

There is no frontrunner. Just a gathering of stragglers, dawdlers slowly lumbering their way to the finish line.

Red Wings Stumble Through March

The Red Wings were 3-9-2 in March and are in the midst of an 0-7-2 skid on the road. Yet with 80 points, they remain a scant two points out of a playoff position.

That’s because the Philadelphia Flyers were 5-7-3 over the past month, while the New Jersey Devils went 6-9. The New York Islanders are 2-7-1 through their past 10 games and the Buffalo Sabres are 2-4 over the past six.

Only the Washington Capitals, 6-2-1 through the past nine games, are making a move. And that move on Saturday was to surpass the Flyers for third spot in the Metropolitan Division. It’s entirely possible that we may have seen the last of the Caps in the wild card race.

Let’s look to the week ahead as the Red Wings continue their chase for a playoff spot.

Detroit Red Wings (36-30-8, 80 points)

Games This Week: Monday at Tampa Bay, Friday vs New York Rangers, Sunday vs Buffalo.

The Red Wings keep touting moral victories, which count for nothing in the standings.

“I think our compete and our willingness to play the game that gives us success,” Red Wings defenseman Jeff Petry was telling Bally Sports Detroit as to what he liked about their performance in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss at Florida.

“That’s the recipe at this time of the year, is no matter what the circumstances, continuing to fight and play that team style game like we’ve been playing the last few. If we continue to do that, the points are going to come.”

Coach Derek Lalonde was pointing out that the Wings have a point in two of their last three games. What he failed to mention is that in both of those games, Detroit blew third-period leads before settling for one point.

Goalie Alex Lyon looks to be finding his game. However, even at that, he’s 0-8-2 over his past 10 decisions.

Washington Capitals (36-27-10, 82 points)

Games This Week: Tuesday at Buffalo, Thursday vs Pittsburgh, Friday at Carolina, Sunday vs Ottawa.

Here’s a big difference between Washington and Detroit. The Capitals also recently embarked upon a five-game road swing. They went 3-2.

Washington has lost just twice in regulation over the past nine games. Both defeats were given to them by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Philadelphia Flyers (36-29-10, 82 points)

Games This Week: Monday vs New York Islanders, Friday at Buffalo, Saturday at Columbus.

Supposedly, the Flyers are left with the softest finishing schedule of any team left in this race. Back to back losses to the Montreal Canadiens (4-1) and Chicago Blackhawks (5-1) by a combined 9-2 margin display that there are no easy games on the NHL slate.

Another concern for the Flyers is that they’ve only got seven games left to play. However, they do win the tiebreaker with the Red Wings, so it’s almost like Philly is holding a three-point edge over Detroit.

New York Islanders (31-27-15, 77 points)

Games This Week: Monday at Philadelphia, Tuesday vs Chicago, Thursday at Columbus, Saturday vs Nashville.

The bloom emanating from the arrival of new coach Patrick Roy has long since wilted. The Islanders are in free fall.

All that’s keeping them relevant is that the Isles still have nine games to play. However, if they don’t win Monday’s game at Philly, stick a fork in them. They’ll be done.